Nov 9, 2002
By KEITH PARSONS
ATLANTA - Stanford Samuels followed his instincts, and because of that, Florida State is closing in on another ACC championship.
Samuels had two interceptions, including a game-saving pick in the end zone with 20 seconds left, as the 17th-ranked Seminoles held off Georgia Tech 21-13 Saturday.
Adrian McPherson threw two touchdown passes, including a 72-yarder to Craphonso Thorpe, and tailback Nick Maddox tied his career high with 122 yards, but Samuels' interceptions proved to be the difference. He returned his other one 82 yards for a tying touchdown in the first quarter.
"As a football player, sometimes you get that gut feeling," Samuels said. "I really had a gut feeling about that last play."
Samuels was suspended from last week's victory over Wake Forest for breaking unspecified team rules, and he got back into the lineup just in time.
"He made those two plays tonight, and he's deserving of it because he's worked hard," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said.
Florida State (7-3, 6-0 ACC) has won 11 straight in the series and hasn't lost to Georgia Tech since joining the ACC in 1992. With two conference games left, they can clinch their 10th title in 11 years.
"Every year that I've been here, we've played them pretty hard," Yellow Jackets linebacker Daryl Smith said. "They always seem to make more plays than we do."
The victory was a belated birthday present for Bowden, who turned 73 on Friday.
Maddox, starting in place of injured tailback Greg Jones, gained 59 yards in the fourth quarter when Florida State played conservatively. He appeared to get stronger late in the game, often slipping through arm tackles for extra yards.
A senior who's never seemed to play to his potential, Maddox is taking advantage of his chance now.
"I just really wanted to contribute, and not try to overdo it, but just do what I can," he said. "It's something I'm ready to take on, being the featured back of this program."
The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 3-4), looking for their third straight victory and second over a Top 25 opponent, drove to the Seminoles' 9-yard line before Samuels' interception. Quarterback A.J. Suggs was trying to get the ball to Jonathan Smith in the back of the end zone, but he under threw the pass.
"There wasn't much room to work in," Suggs said. "There were 22 bodies packed into 20 yards of real estate."
McPherson was making just the second start of his career and was ineffective for much of the game, often throwing well off-target. He finished 8-of-24 for 139 yards.
But he found Thorpe a step ahead of a defender on the left sideline, throwing a perfect spiral that hit Thorpe in stride for the Seminoles' longest play of the season. The catch and run gave Florida State its first lead at 14-7.
"I just made some bad throws, and that was on me," McPherson said. "It's something I'll have to learn from, and it's something I'll have to pick up the rest of the season."
After Georgia Tech closed to 14-13 on two field goals by Luke Manget, McPherson threw a 32-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin near the end of the third quarter. Boldin caught the ball in the middle of the field at the 20 and used two crushing blocks to reach the corner of the end zone.
The Yellow Jackets took a 7-0 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Suggs to Levon Thomas. They were driving for another score early in the second quarter, but Samuels stepped in front of Jonathan Smith and ran it back for the tying score.
Samuels broke an attempted tackle by Suggs at midfield and went the rest of the way untouched.
"I was not going down," Samuels said. "I would've dragged him into that end zone, even if was 50 yards, if I had to."
Suggs threw another interception in the third quarter and finished 22-of-44 for 211 yards. Gordon Clinkscale ran for 89 yards on just 10 carries.
"A close second doesn't get it done in our business," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "It doesn't get it in most businesses."